Nora (Feature)

On the onset of a modern American depression, Nora, a mysterious foreign exchange student on the run from her violent home gets involved with a local family of grain farmers. Gabe, and Mason, two reckless brothers, find that their youth is being cut short with news that their estranged Grandfather is losing the original family farmland. As Gabe is ordered to assist his grandfather and trek across the country, Nora proposes to hitch a ride with him. As her immigration paperwork deadline looms, she convinces Gabe to let her stay on their secluded plot. As the two lives intertwine, their dark pasts begin to haunt them. Their secrets pull them apart, but their love grows equally. This unconventional relationship spirals out of control as the failing American economy weighs on their livelihood.

  • Skyler Lawson
    Nora (short), Clayfist, Anon
  • Shepherd Ahlers
    Two Dollar Bill, Twin Reflex, Above Suspicion
  • Stephanie Whonsetler
    Tragedy Girls, I Am Potential, Clove Hitch
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Drama, Romance, Neo-Distopia, American Social Realism
  • Number of Pages:
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Language:
  • First-time Screenwriter:
  • Student Project:
Writer Biography - Skyler Lawson

Skyler Lawson is an emerging writer & director with his sight set on telling visceral stories that reflect American culture as he sees it. Lawson’s films are rooted in ethical as well as philosophical concepts, exploring human faith and morality. Each one of Lawson's films are trademarked with lush and evocative camerawork, paired with a challengingly dark undercurrent. His unflinching honesty often serves as an mirror of culture in the United States, but also offers an optimistic hand as it challenges the audience to look inward. His visual sensibilities are heavily influenced by his fine art background as a painter and later a designer. He graduated among the top of his class from Herron School of Art and Design with a degree in Visual Communication. A product of a third generation farm family from Indiana, Lawson's work is laced with themes authentic to the American working class. That work ethic has permeated his career. As he left his secondary education that was focused on design thinking, and visual execution, he applied that leadership training and high creative output to his narrative film work. What defines Lawson at the core of his work, is his ability to connect with his material intimately and translate it to screen in a way that invites the audience not only to look deeper into the unique worlds of his characters, but also themselves.

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Writer Statement

When I sat down to write Nora, I had one goal. Honesty. I wanted to be honest about the place that made me who I am. I wanted to paint an honest portrait of the people that raised me, and I wanted to reflect the American culture that seldom gets portrayed in cinema. The film takes place in rural Indiana, the very place that I was born. More specifically the film is set in a farming community. It just so happens that my home state was one of the first to declare our current President as their own on election night. I felt that this decision didn’t summarize the soil that I grew from, nor did it summarize my family that cultivates that land. There is a disconnect between the blue collar worker and the ruthless passing of our times. I want this story to serve as a flag in the ground for their reality, separate from the world’s agenda, but not unaffected. In this story America is on the verge of falling into another depression. I want to show how slowly the “backbone” of America can eventually slouch into hopelessness without having much of a say in the matter. A farmer’s household and livelihood relies on three things, the weather, the stock prices of their commodities, and their faith that what they put in the ground will come up. That life requires equal doses of hard work and faith. The American farmer often goes unthanked, and unrewarded. A good year can garner high taxes and strict contracts, so why do they continue? The answer is tradition, for better or for worse it is in their blood. I wanted their experience to be seen and told from the perspective of a young immigrant. This allows for a genuine and innocent view of the good and the bad of the American working class. More specifically this story is told from the perspective of Nora a twenty year old immigrant girl. With fear of being linked to her family’s tie to a violent act in the Middle East, Nora latches on to an opportunity to live off the grid on a secluded family plot with Gabe, the youngest son of a third generation farming family. The story does not start there, first I wanted to show the everyday lifestyle of a young man and his brother with the weight of responsibility on their shoulders, the weight of a life’s work being passed on to them. Should this be seen as a birthright or a burden? The film begins in the last flickering moments of Gabe and his brother Mason’s youth, before they are forced to become adults and confront the unapologetic reality of a failing economy. They are reckless and rightfully so, as their bleak future looms, but there is another side to that burdened coin. The tradition that Gabe is taking on, is that of great pride. The unfortunate truth is that by the time it is Gabe’s turn to take the reigns of the operation, the world is not what it was when his Great Grandfather started it. Nora has seen first hand how hostile this world can be. For an immigrant to experience the daily grind of an American grain farmer is a collision and juxtaposition not of difference, but of empathy. I feel that regardless of upbringing or heritage, each person has good within them. The question for me is not of differences in ethnicity, but of similarities of the soul. I want to create a new experience for audiences unlike any they have seen. I’m trying to tell a story bigger than a common first feature for a director. I don’t think there is any shame in striving for more than the status quo. The grain belt is more than just fields, it is a culture of sweat, blood, love and faith. Through Nora’s eyes, this setting reveals it’s true beauty, not in it’s vast landscapes, but in it’s people. Although the film takes place in an economic downfall, I feel that this amplified circumstance sheds light on very real issues that are not far from reality. Many of these scenes are taken directly from my personal real life experiences and I think there is no better time to gift this small pocket of America a genuine voice. Not of bigoted ignorance, but a culture of complex love and labor. I cannot argue that there are individuals that represent the coarse distaste for cultures differing from their own. They are present, but this story does not focus on them. If you want that, watch the news. This story is about legacy and responsibility. As a young man strives to find the “American Dream” through endless sweat and opposition, I find it elegant that a refugee finds it for herself with a resilient spirit and strong will. I am a fourth generation son in a family of farmers. I did not take over for my father, as he did for his. My family saw that my heart was elsewhere and gracefully released me into the wild to be an artist, and now a filmmaker. I must honor that gesture and make my choice worth it. I have my whole soul in this project. “Nora” is a love letter to the life and responsibility that I gave up. I strive to honor my upbringing with my craft, and make sure that the America I know is woven deeply into the fabric of this narrative.